Karachi is doomed. Karachi is indestructible. (2)

10 جنوری 2012
Of those, there have been plenty. On May 22, militants from the Pakistani Taliban seized the Mehran naval air base in Karachi to avenge bin Laden\\\'s death. The base was retaken only after a 12-hour battle involving hundreds of Pakistani troops. Four months later, a Taliban suicide bomber killed eight people outside the home of Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam, Karachi\\\'s senior superintendent of police. In 2010 the Taliban\\\'s military chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was captured not in some stifling mountain hideout but in Karachi.
Take away political violence, and Karachi is still plagued by the common variety — armed robbery, kidnappings for ransom, murder — with only 30,000 underpaid police to tackle it all. And the city is still afflicted by the problems of a fast-growing metropolis: pollution, bad sanitation, slums and a transport system so overburdened that thousands of Karachiites commute to work on bus roofs. Chronic power shortages routinely plunge the City of Lights (as it was known in a bygone era) into darkness. In September, monsoon rains caused floods that brought the city to a halt. \\\"It is perhaps Asia\\\'s worst-governed megacity,\\\" says Arif Hasan, an eminent Karachi architect and town planner.
When it comes to buying weapons, however, Karachi is king. That Karachi traders must sell gun lubricant to make ends meet shows just how far the city has sunk. Or it could be interpreted another way: as an example of the indomitable entrepreneurial spirit that makes this filthy, frenetic place a magnet for so many Pakistanis. For as well as representing Pakistan\\\'s dysfunction, Karachi embodies its resilience. Wander Hazari\\\'s bustling neighborhood and you realize that what energizes Karachi is not religion or ethnicity or politics, but commerce and its universal corollary: the dream of a better life.
A Plague on All Their Houses
War, trade and migration shaped modern Karachi and shape it still. Its natural harbor and accessibility to the interior of Sindh province (of which Karachi is the capital) and Central Asia ensured its rapid expansion during British colonial times. By the early 1940s, it was a predominantly Sindhi-speaking city of fewer than 500,000 people, half of them Hindus. Then came the bloody partition of India in 1947. Most of Karachi\\\'s Hindus fled to India, while huge numbers of India\\\'s Urdu-speaking Muslims sought refuge in Karachi. By the 1950s this influx had tripled the city\\\'s population, which continues to multiply. According to a projection by the Asian Development Bank, Karachi could be home to at least 26 million by 2020.
Karachi\\\'s Urdu speakers called themselves Mohajirs, from the Arabic for migrant, and in the 1980s formed the political party that dominates the city today. The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) owes its rise to \\\"efficient organization and willingness to use violence and intimidation to achieve its goals,\\\" according to the U.S. State Department. But Karachi\\\'s ethnic makeup is changing, and this is challenging MQM\\\'s traditional dominance.
The city\\\'s relative prosperity has long lured people from across the country. However, military operations against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan have accelerated the influx of ethnic Pashtun and boosted the influence of the Awami National Party (ANP), which claims to represent them. The ANP won two seats in Sindh\\\'s 168-seat provincial assembly in the 2008 polls — an electoral first for the party. (See photos of the Taliban\\\'s war in Pakistan.)
MQM\\\'s main rival — and also its partner in Pakistan\\\'s shaky ruling coalition — is the Pakistan People\\\'s Party (PPP), which was led by Benazir Bhutto until her assassination four years ago. In Karachi, the PPP traditionally represents the interests of ethnic Sindhis, whose numbers have been boosted by refugees from last year\\\'s devastating floods. Many Sindhis accuse the MQM of attempting to separate Karachi from the rest of the province and turn it into a Mohajir enclave.
(To Be Continue)
Courtesy of Column Time